NCCoE Interns Make a Difference in Cybersecurity

December 2019
Cybersecurity Interns
Group of interns at NCCoE building.

2019 Interns (left to right): NCF Dir. Sam Visner, Will Ledbetter, Michael Dundas, Payton Hinton, Ian Steinbrech, Thomas Walters, Chelsea Deane, Arielle Potter, Anna Fields, Josh Harrington, Trevon Williams, Max Kimmelman, Ops Manager Jolene Loveless.

Each year, students from colleges such as Johns Hopkins University and Dakota State University, join the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST's) National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) in Rockville, Maryland, for a hands-on intern experience. Their collective goals: put their studies into practice, learn new skills, and help make a difference in cybersecurity. 

The NCCoE is a collaborative hub where industry organizations, government agencies, and academic institutions work together to address our nation's most pressing cybersecurity issues. Since 2014, MITRE has operated the National Cybersecurity Federally Funded Research and Development Center (NCF), to support the NCCoE's goal of accelerating the adoption of secure technologies that will identify and solve today's real-world cybersecurity threats.

Keeping with MITRE's long-standing commitment to student programs, the interns take on projects across diverse areas, including finance, healthcare, energy, and manufacturing. They collaborate with cybersecurity engineers and information technology professionals from MITRE, NIST, and leading cybersecurity vendors to architect, build, and publish guidance to help industry overcome their most pressing cybersecurity challenges.

Some research new and emerging cybersecurity technologies or write code to help build a cybersecurity tool that addresses a specific need. Others work on mobile device security or monitoring IT infrastructure.

Competitions Spark Skill Development

In addition, the interns can branch out to work on initiatives such as MITRE's 3D Printing Challenge. Through their participation in the challenge, Max Kimmelman, a senior at the University of Rochester, and Anna Fields, a junior at Dakota State University, developed an easy-access phone system for people who might be disabled or have mobility issues.

"I loved learning how to make 3D models," Fields says. "It was a great experience to be on a team focused on giving people with disabilities more independence."

Trevon Williams, a returning intern from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, enjoyed MITRE's intern hackathon. During the competition, the teams used their software and design skills to address current cybersecurity problems. Judges ranked teams for both technical difficulty and innovation.

Williams also appreciated the learning opportunities after the event. "We talked with a MITRE team dealing with similar issues we worked on during the competition."  

Honing Skills Outside the Lab

While building technical skills is important, team building and networking opportunities are valuable too.

Josh Klosterman, a cybersecurity engineer and the NCCoE intern coordinator, should know. He was once a MITRE intern himself. He organized weekly lunches for the students along with outside activities such as seeing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

"With the wide range of projects our interns are working on at the NCCoE, it's important to make sure they also have opportunities to build relationships with each other, and with other MITRE engineers," he says.

"These relationships and camaraderie are at the core of our intern program. That helps to make everyone's experience more meaningful."

Life After the Internship

Most of the NCCoE interns are here for 12 weeks during the summer. As the summer winds down, they head back to their respective campuses and resume their studies.

And perhaps some may return as MITRE employees, like former intern Taylor Meckley, who was recently hired as a cybersecurity engineer.

"Interning at the NCCoE nurtured my cybersecurity skills and led me to a career in it after graduate school," she says. "Being an intern here was a wonderful experience that helped me grow professionally and personally. I'm grateful for the experience."

—by Thomas Walters

Thomas Walters is an intern with the NCCoE's Outreach and Engagement team. He's a senior majoring in communications at the University of Maryland, College Park and will graduate in the spring of 2020.

Interested in becoming a MITRE intern? View our Job Openings or read more about our Student Programs.